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How People Make Decisions (and How it Helps You Grow Your Business)
Last Updated January 26th, 2012

What makes people buy one product over another?

Why is discounting HORRIBLE for your business?

Or, more broadly speaking, how do people make ANY decision?

The answer lies inside your brain…

…and to help you understand how it works, I’ve got the New York Times best-selling author Jonah Lehrer on the latest edition of Social Triggers Insider.

How People Make Decisions, a Discussion with the NYT best-selling author Jonah Lehrer

By now you know that smart entrepreneurs who want to use the web to attract leads and sales must master the fields of psychology and human behavior.

And that’s why you’ll love this Social Triggers Insider master class with Jonah Lehrer. Just press play!

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Right click this link to save the audio as an mp3 to your computer

If you enjoyed this podcast, you can now subscribe to it on iTunes. Click here to subscribe + leave a review

And then, when you’re done, as part of our “little deal,” if you absolutely loved this Social Triggers Insider master class, share it with 3 friends. Thanks :-).

Anyway, here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Why you should never discount your products (Hint: when you do, you may be training the pain center in your customers’ brain)
  • How one company convinced me to drop a grand with the “painless sales technique.”
  • Why people make decisions with their emotions (Hint: If we were all like Spock, we’d be doomed)
  • And much, much more.


1. Jonah Lehrer’s book “How We Decide (aff)” is a great read. The one story about how one fireman narrowly escaped death will blow your mind.

2. Jonah Lehrer’s new book “Imagine: How Creativity Works (aff)” comes out in March, and I’ve already got it on preorder.

3. Here’s a link to Jonah Lehrer’s blog Frontal Cortex, which is hands-down, one of my favorites. It’s about some nerdy stuff like neuroscience, but hey, you read Social Triggers, so you’re into that :-).

Mp3 Download and Transcript

Right click this link to save the audio as an mp3 to your computer.

If you prefer the transcript, right click this link to save the transcript.

Now I Pass It To You…

What did you think of this Social Triggers Insider?

Leave a comment and let me know.

Additionally, if you haven’t seen the other Social Triggers Insider master classes, here’s a recap:

1. How to Land Major Media Coverage with No Connections

2. How to Charge 100X Your Competitors and Actually Get it

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66 comments Leave a comment


Great info, as always. I’ve picked up a few gems I want to try out.

Just a quick tip: I’d try and use some geo-tracking for your Amazon links. I went to buy the recommended books but I’m from the UK, and it took me to the US site.


carol m

I have a blog about Addiction and making decisions is an important topic I discuss. No one ever makes us make decisions, we decide according to how our personal cost/benefit balance sheet adds up at any one time. Our cost/benefit balance sheet is largely affected by how we think and feel – our emotions.
This applies to all decisions we make, including how we run our businesses. Analyzing and prioritising our goals helps us to plan and work effectively for better outcomes.

The 5 Truth Bombs That Are Silently Destroying Your Business – Twiggal

[…] Derek Halpern’s recent interview with Jonah Lehrer, author of ‘How We Decide’ talks about this in detail. They talk about the case of a man who was brain damaged and incapable of experiencing emotion. He was totally rational and the result was that he was pathologically indecisive, virtually incapable of making a decision. […]


The value of subscribing. I checked back earlier for the transcript. It wasn’t ready. By way of subscribing I caught Liat’s comment. Bingo.

Thank you not only for making the transcript available. But, also for being a person of your word. The more of life that uses the internet for communication / sales / moving money the more important integrity becomes. We who depend on this medium for our livelihood are only a click away from loosing our last customer.

A resturant owner told me during a customer service conversation last night. ” It doesn’t make any difference how good your food is. If you give bad service they won’t forgive you. They won’t come back.”

One click.


Thank you so much for including the transcript! It is a much easier way for me to learn – it has made this series much more valuable to me.

I really appreciate it!


Love this stuff Derek. I would even apply the 80/20 principle to any sales decision. 80% emotion and 20% logic/pricing. Master people’s emotions and you can sell them virtually anything.

Chris Webb

Great stuff. I was almost about to launch a product with discount tiers .. time for a rethink.

Were you channelling the EpicMealTime guy at the end of that audio? 😉

Thanks Derek

Chris Webb



Wow, this is probably the best podcast yet. Thank you not only for the insights but more for introducing me to Jonah. One thing bothers me though about this. I have been absolutely sold on Jonah’s authority as a unique content provider and thought leader in this area.

This is clearly good for Jonah, because I will be very open to buying his book, (especially if I put it on a credit card;)). Now on my way to Jonah’s blog and I’m specifically looking for an opt in, so I can give my email address and keep up with Jonah, but I can’t. There’s no opt ins anywhere. I’m not ready to buy the book just yet, though if prompted I probably would, but now I’m interested in being courted a bit more and receiving more posts however the option isn’t there.

So, as brilliant as Jonah is, he’s not made it easy for me to become a loyal subscriber.

Looking forward to more Derek.


Great podcast! Why people do things is always amazing to me. I bought the book to read more about it.


Amazing, love people and they will love you back! 🙂


Good stuff here. I guess it’s to early to check back for the Transcript?


I made the mistake of subscribing to these comments. haha!

    Derek Halpern

    Want me to remove you?


      All good my friend! BTW, I bought the fight – looking forward to learning some ninja stuff!

      Thanks again mate!


        BOOK!!! haha…watching UFC while typing…


Nice work D! I’m getting this book tonight! What other books on human psychology are the best to get?

    Derek Halpern

    I’d pick up both How We Decide and his other book, Imagine.

Stephanie, Fairground Media

So glad you did this interview. Great stuff, and I had never heard of Jonah Lehrer before. His Frontal Cortex blog is fascinating! I geek out over that stuff too. Unchecked, I could lose several hours there.

    Derek Halpern

    I’ve regularly read Jonah Lehrer’s blog forever. I’m glad I had the chance to get him on here at Social Triggers.


Fabulous master class. I listened then downloaded to my husband’s desktop. He needs to hear the bit about credit card spending 😉

    Derek Halpern



What do you do when your entire industry has put your product on sale? I have a new song coming out next week (and will every month from here on out) and I am trying to figure out how to charge for a download. I was thinking about a limited time pay what you want model with an incentive for them to pay more (anything over X amount gets their name in the credits) but after listening to this, not sure that is the best approach. Any suggestions?

    Derek Halpern

    This is in the music world, and I suspect it’s a little different. As a musician, your fans want to be closer to you. Or they want live music from you. What if you sold it at a price, and then, at a limited time, they got some live version of you.


      Thanks Derek.


Oh and I forgot to mention that “How we decide” is available as an Audiobook! Guess what I’ll be reading next 🙂

    Derek Halpern

    Or listening 🙂


Thought this was an excellent audiocast and am enjoying this blog a lot! Understanding what makes me tick is something I’m really interested in.

One insight I had was that, in general, when I’m buying clothes, I personally don’t get a great sense of ownership when I’m trying them on. Perhaps there’s a slight amount ownership that I’m not aware of.

In retrospect, what has worked on me in the past is when I walked into a store and they handed me a one off scratch coupons where you discover how much discount you’re going to get on that day on a specific product (e.g. Jeans).

I got a real sense of “owning” the jeans at a cheaper price. If I came back the next day I would “lose it”. Debatable how I’d feel if I ultimately couldn’t benefit from the discount … I suppose I might not have come back to buy them at the higher price. But I think the point is that the 25% off was something I really took ownership of.

    Derek Halpern

    Interesting anecdote. What store did that happen at?


Derek, that was fantastic. This interview had some keen insight. It’s fascinating how people make their decisions. I thought I knew where this would go but found myself surprised and educated. Thanks.

    Derek Halpern

    Awesome Paula.

    Jonah Lehrer is amazing. You should check out his book How We Decide.

Emma Lawrence

Hi Derek,

This master class was SO fascinating – thank you!

Hmmm… perhaps it’s time to cut up the credit card and start exercising a little more self control… 🙂

Thanks again,

    Derek Halpern


    Or figure out ways where you can make your sales more painless, too.


Today my wife and I were discussing new techniques for disciplining our three year old. Our son has an exceptional amount of energy and is often times rather difficult to get through to him. We have recently began to take toys away and place them on the shelf, just out of reach. He only gets them back when he is willing to do what he is told. This has had a profound impact to the way he responds to “First Voice”. As I was listening to this interview, I had one of those “ah-ha” light bulbs. Our 3 year old is responding because of loss aversion. This led me to consider loss aversion relationship to subscription based sales. Something I once owned has been taken away. What do I need to do to get it back? Thoughts?

    Derek Halpern

    Interesting idea, for sure.

    Also, it’s the pain of not having it. You take it out of their possession, and it’s still clear that they don’t have it. you don’t give them a chance to forget about it.

    I’m not sure if that’s the best for child rearing, but hey,heh.

kimanzi constable

I really like what you’re doing online and how much you help others Derek. Keep up the good work!

    Derek Halpern

    Thank you Kimanzi

5 Must-Read Links About Improving Your Blog

[…] to this audio master class with Jonah Lehrer and I to learn all about […]


Does sharing across 3 platforms count? 🙂

    Derek Halpern

    I’ll take it!


This was a cool session, once again. Thanks for taking the effort to interview all these experts Derek.

I think the biggest thing you should learn about this particular interview is that you shouldn’t discount your products, especially if you are selling information products. How is that information that was worth 200 bucks yesterday now worth only 100 bucks? If the product is good (often meaning evergreen), there is only one way the price should go: up.

Of course if you are selling tactics which have a very short shelf life, then it might make sense from sales perspective to offer a discount near the end of the life cycle of the product. But why make short term products when you could be doing better ones that are valuable still after many years? 🙂

    Derek Halpern

    You’re right. Discounting is horrible. And once you start, it’s hard to stop. The influx of sales becomes addicting.


Hi Derek,
Once again, great material. I am sending this to all of the stores that I work with! I could see myself in the examples for sure.
I am working on a video about how to work with me to create custom jewelry and I want to eliminate the pain points, but I alao need to figure out how fear of loss comes into play.

    Derek Halpern

    Awesome Natasha.

    Well, you make jewelry by hand. That means, by default, there’s a scarce amount of it.


      That is true! I also use gemstones that are one-of-a-kind or very limited quantity. Going to make sure that my customers are really aware of that.


        Derek Halpern

        Great idea.


Hi Derek,
Do you have this podcast on iTunes? I like to listen in the car. Thanks.

    Derek Halpern

    I’ll be adding it to iTunes soon.


Definitely crazy how the cash-now settlements work (brings to mind the JG Wentworth Commercials – Its my money and I want it now!).

The marshmallow experiment shows some very interesting results btw. Again, you’ve hit it out the park with this Insiders, simply powerful information.

    Derek Halpern

    That’s what I was referring to :-).


Some real great info here Derek! I got to hear you speak at RHHLive and you always give great value. I have my undergraduate degree in Neuroscience, so this was a great bridge between my technical knowledge and how to apply it to my business marketing 🙂


    Derek Halpern

    Awesome Margaret. Glad you enjoyed it, and RHH live was a blast, right? 🙂

Joshua Black

It’s amazing how many business owners are racing each other to the bottom with deep discounting.

Great lesson today Derek! I love this course and the valuable interviews.

Once a business owner can show their product through the window of VALUE and EXCLUSIVITY instead of ruining their company competing on price, the relevence of price slowly fades away.

Those emotional ties to value, exclusivity, EXTREME loss-aversion, and customer benefits really appeal to that little “just get it already” devil that’s sitting on your shoulder.

-Joshua Black

    Derek Halpern

    Glad you’re liking the series Joshua, and you’re right with the emotional connections.


Loved it!

My notes:

– Possibility of loss
– The easier the buying experience, the better
– Instant results

For last: It’s great when you try to frame what the person says to make it have more sens to your readers but you should try not interrupt that often. Sometimes you look as you’re competing to look as smart as them.

Sorry, I know we bloggers dislike criticism sometimes. It’s with the best intentions.

Have a good day and thanks for your hard work!

    Derek Halpern

    Yea, I messed up with that interruption, though I think we were actually working with a delay on this audio.

    You’ll also notice an echo on my voice. I was working from a mobile workspace, and I think the internet wasn’t up to snuff.

    Oh, and, I don’t even pretend to know as much about this neuroscience stuff as Jonah Lehrer. He’s really amazing, and I recommend everyone read his work.


      Agree that it would be great if you could continue to frame things (I got a lot out of that) all be it more smoothly 🙂

      Perhaps having the person on instant messaging or even some kind of webinar software where you can raise a visual flag that you have something to say. Trick will be to remember what you wanted to say.

        Derek Halpern

        Eh, usually it’s fine.

        I think this one was off , like i said, because I was working mobile.

David Jay

Amazing Stuff! I indeed just ran a campaign where I offered a discount and my conversion rate was a hell of lot lower than when I ran a full priced campaign last month.

    Derek Halpern

    That’s strange. Discounting doesn’t necessarily hurt conversion rates, but what it does do is train your customers to wait for discounts.

Todd Tresidder

Hey Derek,

I’m getting a lot of value from these classes and particularly liked the video website reviews you did.

Thank you for the great insights!

    Derek Halpern

    Glad you’re enjoying it Todd. Share it up 😉

Brian Kwong

This interview came at the perfect time as I just launched a Kickstarter project and just figuring what works with the video and the copy in the project description.

Thanks Derek!

    Derek Halpern

    Interesting. What’s the project, and how is it related to this?

      Brian Kwong

      The project is about interviewing some of the Top 20 Most Funded projects on Kickstarter and gather all their lessons learn and best strategies in one place, so for example, an independent writer who wants to self publish can get the fundings he/she need to self publish by using Kickstarter.

      How it is related to this is, I am asking people to pay money for this on Kickstarter before I put it all together (I already did a few interviews and there is a sample on the project page) so I am still working on how people make the decision to support the project or not.

      I already set the pricing already and can’t be changed now so I am glad that I didn’t give a big discount after listening to this.

      So Thanks for this Derek =)

        Derek Halpern

        Ah, awesome.


          If I were putting together a Kickstarter campaign and you were to spell out to me exactly how much money I might be leaving on the table by NOT using your research and strategies, that would go straight to the fear of loss. Even if I didn’t buy it immediately, I would be haunted by the thought, and would most likely buy your program.

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